Coding with a Purpose

Google. The giant. The company that is in almost everything. How could one blog post of 1,000 words possibly encompass the mammoth that has its hands in just about everything? Well, simply put: it cannot. And that’s why I am not attempting to tackle the behemoth that is YouTube or the controversial mandatory Google+ accounts, never mind Gmail – even if I could pay homage to Clay Shirky and the reply all button. Today, I want to shed some light on a lesser-known project; one that really could shape the future. That project is “Made with Code.”

Made with Code

So, what is it? Easy: “Made with Code is an initiative to champion creativity, girls, and code, all at once. The movement is designed to do three things: To inspire girls by celebrating women and girls who are using code to do great things; to engage girls to try coding through introductory projects and resources; and to sustain their interest by creating alliances and community around girls and coding.”

So why am I writing about it? Well, over the summer someone posted a link to this cool project they were hosting. Sadly, this project is no longer an active offering, as I have no doubt many of you would like to cash in on this one – even if you aren’t a young girl learning to code. Made with Code hosted a promotion for a free 3D printed bracelet. It was a simple creation process. As outlined below in a similar project, the website instills knowledge of the building blocks of code – objects, shapes and values. Using a simple interactive UI, you could create a simple bracelet – mine is pictured below.

Example project - make an avatar

Example project – make an avatar

Now, with this in mind we can conclude two things: one, this is not exactly coding and two, I am not a young girl with little experience in coding. I’ve taken the introductory programming course, and I decided that was enough to list Visual Basic on my resume. I like to code. And I’m particularly interested in projects like these, as I really do think computer science is a powerful and poorly utilized tool. The website lists several variances of this same initiative such as Code.org.

Perhaps more importantly than me going outside of my demographic, we can see that this website is neither setting variables with distinct statements nor having complicated loops. No, the website uses something called “Blocky.” Blocky is a program developed by Google to convey core coding concepts in a “first step” manner. Things such as “variables, coordinates, statements, string and sequence” are visible in the available projects of varying difficulty.

So what?

So yes, this website is pretty cool. And there are some seriously awesome examples of the utilization of code on the website if you take some time and watch a video or two. So right about now you might be asking, so how does this affect social media? Why have you spent the last 500 words telling me, a college-educated student, about another Google side show?

First and foremost, this website acts as a way for similarly minded girls to connect. Bonding over these interests and shared building experiences is made possible through the community and online directory at Made with Code. On the very basic level of making relationships possible, this website fits the bill.

On a deeper level, this website is building for the future. 15 years from now, the social media landscape could be nearly unrecognizable from today. And for all we know, someone who really explored their passions on a website like this one could be response for it. Made with Code allows friends to create something together; moreover, it also helps to pave the way for an entirely refocused mindset for the next generation. I want to see how all these bits fit together in a brighter tomorrow. I want to see what people can possible come up with next. And with Google at the helm, and a truly strong pool of talent, the possibilities are near infinite.

3D printed bracelet from Made with Code - currently owned by my girlfriend

3D printed bracelet from Made with Code – currently owned by my girlfriend

Oh, and 3D printing is just really really cool.

Sources:

https://www.madewithcode.com/

6 comments

  1. Great post, Dan! I loved how you related coding to social media. I think so much of what is to come is reliant on the capability of coders. My roommate is actually a computer science major and I was discussing this “Made with Code” initiative with her. Although she is frequently the only female in her computer science classes and realizes that coding is predominantly a male dominated field, she said these type of efforts make her feel singled out in a bad way. It brings to attention that she is a minority and causes the notion that her skills aren’t as valued–as if any female coder will be better than none. We see other fields, like engineering, that are similarly underrepresented and groups like the Society of Women Engineers that are championing for more young girls to get involved. I think it is definitely important to inspire young girls to get involved in things they like that aren’t necessarily “conventional” for their gender, but it needs to be done in a way where their skills are still valued. I think Google has started a great initiative with Made with Code, but they need to ensure that it doesn’t feel too much like a charity.

  2. Awesome post Dan! Last week there was a NPR story that gave some background as to one potential reason why women stopped coding. According to the NPR story prior to 1984 “…the number of women studying computer science was growing faster than the number of men.” The story points to the introduction of the personal computer, which were essentially toys, as one potential reason why women stopped coding. “And these toys were marketed almost entirely to men and boys.This idea that computers are for boys became a narrative.” What Google is doing with the Made with Code project is essentially trying to shift the narrative that was started in the mid 1980s. I think as the availability of technology continues to increase, basic coding skills will be seen as essential. (Here is a link to the NPR article if you are interested http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/10/21/357629765/when-women-stopped-coding) This is a very interesting project by Google and I’m glad that I now know about it.

    Now, if someone could only teach me how to code.

  3. Good to know that moguls like Google are innovating back to the community. Personally having taken programming classes myself, the gratification of knowing that your code executes a meaningful purpose is priceless. However, debugging (looking for errors in your code that prevents it from working…which takes about 80% of my programming time) is the main factor of frustration! Good thing Made With Code’s user-friendly interface is able to deliver the opportunity for beginners to experience the merit of coding without going through mind-numbing headaches. I really hope that this project creates the desired empowerment for women to be interested in such technical fields. Wonder what an increased diversity of participants in the STEM field would bring in term of progress in the coming years!

    The social elements of this project is really what makes it work. Debugging and critical thinking becomes a lot more stimulating when done in groups, which improves the learning process for users. As you mentioned, this is also a great opportunity for users to bond with another not only through their passion for crafts, but their intellectual ideas. While Made With Code is directed for women, I really think that Google should start gearing their way to children as well. Here’s a REALLY cool video I saw last year that speaks to that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gjc6UX-BFks It would be intriguing to find the future to be a world where most people have significant potential to control technology.

  4. Great post! I appreciate that you introduced the coding thing in a less intimidating and positive way and do trigger my interest to learn more about it, and I went on to make a Avatar with code! Before reading your post and exploring the website, I really didn’t know there are so many great things to do with code because my previous perception about code is very technical and more for computer master. So you can tell the information about coding is somehow limited and distant with many people, which could be a potential obstacle in the development of computer technology in the future. It’s good to know Google is helping foster the future talent and paving the way at a early stage by making it approachable to anyone regardless of age, gender, and backgrounds. Thanks to your sharing, I will definitely keep my eyes on coding hereafter!

  5. Nice post Dan! I am 100% on board with the goal of making coding universally accessible. I’ve read a great many articles lately about why everyone should learn to code. It may seem completely unnecessary for most users of modern technology, and truthfully most of us will never have a reason to use any kind of code. But having an understanding of how the technological world around us is constructed is allows us to think about it critically and to add value in ways we might not have been capable of otherwise. The below articles make the case that in the modern world, we say young people are so tech savvy, but in reality most of them (us?) are actually tech dependent. I like to think that technology should be a tool in the hand of a skilled master, rather than a crutch that you have to depend on.

    http://www.fastcodesign.com/3031413/design-for-living/should-you-learn-to-code

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/29051567

  6. There are so many resources available online to help people learn to code, that we have even questioned whether we should still teach classes in it (although effective design is different than just coding language). I am teaching my 9y.o. daughter Javascript through Khan Academy, who has a great tutorial geared at school age kids. There’s also a coding language called Scratch out of MIT geared to kids.

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